The Leadership Difference

I’ve met a lot of “leaders” in my lifetime and a few of them actually led. 

If you’re confused by that sentence let me explain. Lots and lots of people hold positions in their organizations that would indicate they are leaders. Many of them have some fancy title that would seem to confirm it. 

Too bad for them that neither a position or title can make them a leader. Even having followers doesn’t actually make someone a leader, at least not an Authentic Leader. People can be coerced into “pretending” to follow. The truth is they are merely complying with orders and directives so they can keep their paychecks coming. 

Authentic Leaders don’t need compliance and they rarely give “orders.” They work to earn the commitment of their people so their people willingly follow them. Enthusiastically follow them. 

The followers of an Authentic Leader follow them because of what the leader has done for them. They follow because the leader makes a positive difference in the lives of the people they lead. 

I’d go so far as to say if you haven’t made a positive difference in the lives of people you think you are leading then you may be their boss but you are not their leader. If you’re not consistently showing the people you lead that you care about them as human beings then you may be their manager but you are not their leader.

If your words do not match your actions then they cannot trust you. If they cannot trust you then they may comply with your demands but they will never be committed to following you. 

If your people believe that you’re using them to advance your own career then you’ll be unable to earn that commitment no matter how high your position or fancy your title. 

So let me ask you this. Can you specifically say how you’ve made a positive difference in the life of someone you’ve led? Can you say how you demonstrate, on a regular basis that your people matter to you and your organization? Can you say when, exactly, was the last time you told them that they matter as an individual? 

If you can’t answer those questions and do so relatively quickly then you have some work to do. You’ll need to invest some time to improve your leadership skills. You likely have to change your thinking as well. Some of all you may even have to develop a heart for leadership. 

The great news is that all that’s possible. To begin all you need to do is make a decision that you will LeadToday!

Everybody Needs to be Somebody

I’ve met people who said they didn’t matter and they claimed to be okay with that. I think they were so afraid that they didn’t matter that they just couldn’t admit how important it was to them that they actually did matter. 

Everyone wants to matter. Everyone needs to matter. We all want to be somebody. We want to be needed. We want to make a difference. And we want others to acknowledge that we make a difference. 

Authentic Leaders invest time daily to make certain that the people they lead know they matter. People who are fortunate enough to be led by an Authentic Leader never have to wonder if they are making a difference. Authentic Leaders communicate with specificity and frequency how each of their people make a difference. 

But here’s the thing…helping other people know that they matter in the world is not only the responsibility of those in leadership positions. We can all do that for each other and we should all be doing that for each other. Seven days a week. 

Think for a moment of the person most important in your life. The singularly most important person. When was the last time you told them that? Straight up. No beating around the bush. No worrying about looking foolish. No concerns about having your motives questioned.

Just flat out told them how much they matter to you. How huge a difference they make in your life. Told them pure and simple?

Tell them now. Tell them right now. Come back and read the rest of this later if you want but stop for now so you can tell that person right this minute. Don’t let another second go by. Tell them now!

I hope you’ve had to come back to this post and are not just continuing to read. If you told someone how much they mean to you then you’ve done a good thing. But don’t stop there. 

Pay attention to those you interact with. Watch for how they matter and tell them as well. Let them know how they are making a difference in your life or the lives of others. They need to hear it and you have the opportunity to be perhaps the first person to tell them in a long time.

Hearing that you matter to someone never gets old. Knowing people see and appreciate your value is priceless.

Be more present so you can notice the value in others. Then tell them what you’ve noticed. This isn’t hard work, if you pay attention you’ll see value in everyone and you’ll make their day, maybe their year, when you tell them what you’ve noticed.

Everybody needs to be somebody. Today, this very day, someone will rise up to become somebody. Will you be the one to help them? If you are it will be one of the best days of YOUR life. 

People Were People Before They Were Your People

So this is a post that will likely cause me some trouble with the politically correct crowd. That’s because I’m going to rip on, just a little, all the new fancy titles we now see. Chief Inclusion Officer is one that comes to mind. Except some companies have decided “chief” is now offensive so they can’t use that title anymore. 

Companies seem to be in a rush to add titles with the words diversity, inclusion, equality and the like. There are so many “buzz word” titles floating around that I couldn’t possible mention them all. These companies are trying to prove that everyone in their organization is valuable. Which is a worthy thing to do. But I have a question.

Instead of endowing people with fancy titles that say “we care” how about actually caring? How about showing you care for everyone equally instead of saying it again and again?

I have tremendous faith in people’s ability to figure out if the place they work gives a damn about them. Somebody in the company with a progressive sounding job title isn’t going to fool them. 

Which brings me to more traditional sounding titles and departments. Like Human Resources. Or maybe a little more modern sounding Human Asset Management Department. Or my personal least favorite, Human Capital Resource Group. 

The problem with departments or groups with those names is it sets up the mindset that people should be managed like any other piece of capital or asset. I had the unhappy experience about 18 months ago of sitting next to a consultant during a dinner. We struck up a conversation about how their consultancy advises their clients. 

He said that when they recommend downsizing they look at job titles, work responsibilities, cost of “asset,” and how much longer the asset would be of value. They do not recommend the termination of anyone by name, that makes it too personal and may cause the management of the client company to hesitate. 

It’s sort of the same thought process as when a farmer won’t name a pig or a cow that they intend to eat one day. 

The consultant doesn’t really care how a client company thinks of their people, so long as they don’t think of them as people. They are merely assets or capital like a copier or computer. You pay them and you own them. 

But here’s the thing. They ARE people. They have always been people. They will always be people. You may pay them but you don’t own them. 

Businesses that forget that their primary business is the people business will not last. It makes no difference what you see or what you make, you are in the people business. Your people were people long before they were your people. 

It is beyond foolish for you as a leader to expect your people to care for your business or it’s customers when the best you can do is give someone in the company a new-age title that shows how progressive your organization is. People don’t care how progressive the company is when the people running the company don’t demonstrate that the company cares about them. 

When the company shows they care about their people, all their people, equally, they don’t need fancy titles. If the company fails to show they care about their people no amount of fancy titles will convince them otherwise. 

Inclusion, honoring diversity, and treating everyone equally won’t come from titles or committees, it comes from an Authentic Leader demonstrating those values on a daily basis. 

How to Give a Sincere Compliment

When talking about giving compliments I suppose I have to get this part out of the way right up front. “This part” is the part about when to give a compliment. I also suppose we have to talk about what to compliment…and maybe what NOT to compliment.

This has gotten much tougher over the years. Let me give you an example. A friend of mine works for a large medical device company. He has worked there for a number of years, he is a well regarded engineer and has a spotless employment record. Not too long ago he was suspended for complimenting a female co-worker on her appearance; specifically how she looked in a new sweater she was wearing.

The woman he complemented seemed to appreciate the compliment. His problem started when a person who was not even a part of the conversation overheard the compliment and was offended by it. They thought it was inappropriate and offensive that he was commenting on another employees appearance.

They thought it was so inappropriate that they complained to the HR department. After a short “investigation” my friend was suspended. That might cause a person to swear off giving compliments entirely.

Did I mention that the co-worker my friend complimented was also his sister? Did I mention that he had given her the sweater for her birthday a few days before?

Even though situations like that might cause some people to completely stop the practice of giving compliments I still recommend giving them.

But give real compliments.

A real compliment has two parts.

Part one is the compliment itself. “I appreciate the extra effort you put in to help that customer work through their technical issues.”

Part two is the evidence that supports the compliment. “The reason I say that is I watched your interaction with the customer. Many people would have become frustrated with and dismissive of the customer. You kept your cool and turned a negative customer experience into a positive one.”

Have you ever received a compliment that caused you to wonder about the motives of the person giving you the compliment? It’s likely that they didn’t provide evidence to support the compliment. That evidence leaves no doubt as to the sincerity of the compliment.

Don’t give half a compliment. Always attach supporting evidence so no one has to wonder about your motives. If you can’t think of any evidence to support the compliment then ask yourself if the compliment is really worth giving. I’d suggest that it’s not.

In the politically correct world in which we now live I’d also suggest keeping your compliments focused on performance and abilities. It’s not “safe” to comment on things like appearance anymore and the reality is that in many cases it probably always was inappropriate.

But real compliments can change a person’s day. Maybe even their life. So look for real reasons to compliment others. As Dale Carnegie said, be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”

Care for Your Customer

I always enjoy watching marketing people, well good marketing people, talk about their products. They have a passion for them and if they are truly good at what they do it’s safe to say they actually love their products. It’s like their baby!

 

I’m especially interested in how they talk about their products to salespeople. They want the people selling their product to love it as much as they do. That’s where I’m pretty different from most marketers. 

 

I don’t want salespeople to love their products; I want them to love their customers. Don’t get me wrong, I want salespeople to believe in their products enough to represent them with integrity. I want them to understand the value those products bring to their customers. I need them to understand how their products solve a customer’s issue. I literally want salespeople to feel it’s an honor to sell their products to people who will benefit from them. 

 

But for long-term very successful salespeople it’s not the product they are most passionate about; it is their customers. More specifically, they are passionate about helping their customers. They care enough for their customers to help them identify their greatest areas of need. Then they work to figure out if they have a product or service that can address that need. 

 

Notice that I didn’t say that they care “about” their customer. Every business and salesperson cares about their customers. What I said was that long-term successful salespeople, and businesses for that matter, care “for” their customers. There is a big difference between caring about and caring for. 

 

Today Customer “Care”  has become something of a buzzword. Many Customer Service Departments are now called Customer “Care” departments. For many of those service departments the name was the only thing that changed. 

 

“Care” is much better as a verb. Some people use it as a noun but successful people, successful salespeople, successful leaders, and successful organizations use it as a verb. 

 

A verb, for those of you struggling to recall your days in English class, refers to an action. It will always be better to show people and customers that you care than it will be to tell them. I’m betting some of you are telling yourself right now that you care. I’ll bet some of you are reasonably sure other people know you care. I’ll also bet that many of you are hoping people, and your customers know you care. 


Don’t bet, don’t hope and don’t assume. Turn “Care” into a verb today and show someone, a loved one, a special co-worker or even a customer how much you truly care. It’s good business sense and it’s great people skills. So do it today!